Some of you may have seen news about the guidance that came out from Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)/Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) yesterday afternoon. I know that you have questions, and we have a lot of questions too.
We, along with many other universities are asking for clarification (and modifications of the guidance), but here’s what we do know so far:
The guidance depends on how the University is handling enrollment for the fall. The University of Northern Colorado is using a hybrid model – some classes are face to face, but many are online. Under the hybrid model, what happens for students depends on where you are:
Continuing F-1 students outside the United States may enroll in online classes from outside the U.S. to continue your studies. It appears that you will need to complete an Authorized Early Withdrawal for immigration purposes and have your SEVIS/I-20 record suspended for the time you’re outside the U.S. Ideally we will able to request the record’s reactivation for a later return (within 5 months). This is a common scenario for students who need to take a leave of absence and is nothing to worry about. It is also possible that you will have to get a new SEVIS record, new I-20 and pay a new SEVIS fee, in order to return, but we can help you through this process. This is one of the questions we are trying to get clarification on.
F-1 students inside the United States must enroll full time (unless otherwise qualified and approved for a regular Reduced Course Load). Academic F-1 students must enroll in face-to-face or hybrid classes as much as possible (and must have at least one class that is hybrid or face to face). While more than one online/distance class can make up part of a full course load, you must maximize your face-to-face (including hybrid) classes and minimize online/distance. You will need to certify that you are taking “the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in [your] degree program” for the fall semester, but the guidance does not give a specific number of academic credits that have to be in person or online.
Intensive English Program students in the United States must take all 18 contact hours in a face to face setting.
The new guidance also says that if the University needs to switch to all online courses mid-semester that students inside the United States would need to depart immediately or transfer to a school that has face to face classes. They have suggested that they will begin deportation proceedings if students fail to depart. Obviously, traveling home could be very difficult under the kinds of circumstances that would cause the University to close again. Please factor this into your thinking about the fall. We miss you, and want to see you back on campus next month, but it is important that you take the steps that provide you the most security, safety, and comfort, as you consider how to continue your education. We want to support what’s best for you.
We will be sending out additional information and guidance as we get it. We will also be as asking you to let us know your plans through a formal process that will allow us to update immigration records appropriately and create automatic insurance waivers for those of you who will be outside the U.S. this fall. We’ll share that link as soon as we can.
UNC and our team care deeply about your well-being, your welfare, and your education. We are in unprecedented times, and we appreciate your patience as we navigate and move forward together.
Director, International Student and Scholar Services, PDSO/RO